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OBJECTIVES: Validated diagnostic interviews are required to classify depression status and estimate prevalence of disorder, but screening tools are often used instead. We used individual participant data meta-analysis to compare prevalence based on standard Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale - depression subscale (HADS-D) cutoffs of ≥8 and ≥11 versus Structured Clinical Interview for DSM (SCID) major depression and determined if an alternative HADS-D cutoff could more accurately estimate prevalence. METHODS: We searched Medline, Medline In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations via Ovid, PsycINFO, and Web of Science (inception-July 11, 2016) for studies comparing HADS-D scores to SCID major depression status. Pooled prevalence and pooled differences in prevalence for HADS-D cutoffs versus SCID major depression were estimated. RESULTS: 6005 participants (689 SCID major depression cases) from 41 primary studies were included. Pooled prevalence was 24.5% (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 20.5%, 29.0%) for HADS-D ≥8, 10.7% (95% CI: 8.3%, 13.8%) for HADS-D ≥11, and 11.6% (95% CI: 9.2%, 14.6%) for SCID major depression. HADS-D ≥11 was closest to SCID major depression prevalence, but the 95% prediction interval for the difference that could be expected for HADS-D ≥11 versus SCID in a new study was -21.1% to 19.5%. CONCLUSIONS: HADS-D ≥8 substantially overestimates depression prevalence. Of all possible cutoff thresholds, HADS-D ≥11 was closest to the SCID, but there was substantial heterogeneity in the difference between HADS-D ≥11 and SCID-based estimates. HADS-D should not be used as a substitute for a validated diagnostic interview.

Original publication




Journal article


J Psychosom Res

Publication Date





Depression, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Individual participant data, Meta-analysis, Screening tools